The search for the perfect mate isn't easy, but your smartphone may be able to help. Even a few years ago, Internet dating meant tethering yourself to your computer, but these days, mobile devices and location-sensing apps have turned the world into your playground for dates, hookups and long-term relationships, with even Facebook launching a dating service as part of its social network. If you're looking for romance during the holidays or just want that special someone to ring in the new year, check out the best dating apps that will help you find the Right One... or the Right Now.
You may notice that many of these apps are now owned by Match Group, which in addition to its own Match.com service also operates Tinder, Hinge, eHarmony, OKCupid and Plenty of Fish. Still, the different apps put a focus on different things, so some may be better for your own needs than others.
Facebook (Android, iOS)
Facebook Dating, first unveiled back in 2018, launched this year in the U.S. after test runs in other countries. An opt-in part of the social network, Facebook Dating focuses on helping you find long-term relationships, not hook-ups. You access the Dating section from within Facebook's mobile app (Android, iOS), setting up a Dating profile that's separate from your regular Facebook profile. From there, Facebook finds matches for you based on your preferences, interests and activities on the social networking site.
Facebook won't suggest matches among people you already know on Facebook, unless you use the service's Secret Crush feature in which you can select up to nine Facebook friends or Instagram followers you have an interest in. If they also express an interest in you via Secret Crush, Facebook will match you up.
You're currently able to add Instagram posts to your Facebook Dating profile, and you'll soon be able to share Facebook and Instagram stories on your Dating profile, too. In addition to the U.S., Facebook Dating is available in 19 other countries.
Tinder (Android; iOS)
Tinder (Android, iOS) blazed the trail, set by Grindr, toward a world of swipe and scroll dating apps. On its face, Tinder encourages you to make shallow, snap judgments about potential partners. You create a simple profile with a handful of photos and a few sentences about yourself, then throw yourself at the Internet's mercy. The app displays singles in your area. If you like one, swipe the photo to the right; otherwise, swipe to the left. If you both swipe right, you can send messages and set something up. Tinder continues to tinker with its formula, with recent additions including a looping video feature and a geolocation-based Places to find matches who share your hangouts. For Android users, Tinder just added a new payment process that bypasses Google Play, so that it doesn't have to share revenue with Google; it will be interesting to see how Google reacts to that move.
Bumble (Android; iOS)
Bumble (Android, iOS) aims to let you make new dates or friends in your area. With this app, the queen bee (any female) must make the first move after two people mutually connect and are part of each other’s hive. There’s not much time to waste — there’s just 24 hours to make some kind of contact or the connection disappears forever. For same-sex connections or friendships, either person has to make a move within 24 hours before that connection is gone, though you can get a 24-hour extension. Just looking to widen your circle of friends, as opposed to relationship? Bumble has a BFF feature for people who are not looking for dates and a separate section for making business contacts. The Bumble Boost upgrade, which ranges from $2.99 to $8.99, makes it easier and faster to meet or date people.
Bumble updates have added video and voice chat features that appear once you've made connections with people in Date, Bizz and BFF modes.
OkCupid (Android; iOS)
OkCupid (Android, iOS) features a massive userbase and straightforward dating tools. But rather than rest on their laurels, OKC keeps refining and adding on features to its apps, such as a new system of "Flavors" that allows users to quickly view evocative flavors of potential matches, such as Kinky Nerds, Beard Lovers, World Travelers, etc. All this is in addition to OkCupid's messaging tools, personality quizzes, Instagram integration and other old favorites. A premium subscription adds other features, such as refined search tools and the ability to see users who have liked you.
Match.com (Android; iOS)
Match.com offers its users a freemium dating experience on Android and iOS. Free users can set up online profiles, upload a few pictures of themselves and then engage in some online flirting with "winks", and have new matches delivered to them daily. More comprehensive features such as the ability to see who has checked out your profile and liked your pictures can be unlocked by a Match.com subscription. Match has continued to add on to its features, such as a Tinder-like Mixer, Android Wear and Apple Watch integration, as well as the addition of voice and video snippets to your profile.
Match is also testing out a phone-based service called AskMatch that puts you in touch with a dating coach for advice and pointers. AskMatch is currently available in New York City, though the dating service hopes to bring it nationwide by 2020.
Grindr (Android; iOS)
Grindr (Android, iOS) allows gay and bisexual men to meet up with like-minded men nearby. Profile creation is a fairly minimal experience, focusing on a profile pic, user name, and a few simple questions, and choosing a "Tribe" that describes your type, and then you're up finding other users and chatting them up in minutes. Grindr is free to use and advertisement-supported, but the premium version, Grindr Xtra, offers ad-free browsing in addition to other features like adding multiple Tribes and advanced search filters. One notable downside? Unlike other dating apps, push notifications for messages require Grindr Xtra.
eharmony (Android; iOS)
eharmony (Android, iOS) is a long time player in the online dating game, and the first service to push an algorithmic system to try to make the best possible dating matches for its members. Once you create an account, users go through a "Relationship Questionnaire" to create a personality profile that helps match you with other users that eharmony thinks you'll click with. Every day, the app will provide you with a selection of matches and your areas of compatibility; you'll have the option to connect if the interest is mutual. Premium subscribers get expanded matching and discovery options, and other features like being able to see who has recently viewed your profile.
Coffee Meets Bagel (Android; iOS)
Coffee Meets Bagel (Android, iOS) takes the opposite approach to many dating apps, trying to focus on quality rather than quantity. Every day at noon, the app will send men a small selection of potential matches based on their profile and preferences, and women are then sent a number of matches who've shown interest in them, leaving the ladies the option of reciprocating the like. If the attraction is mutual, then the app will set you up with a 7-day chat window and icebreaker. A recent redesign of the app puts a greater emphasis on user profiles, giving you the ability to comment on profiles and photos in hopes of fostering more connections between Coffee Meets Bagel users.
Her (Android; iOS)
Her (Android, iOS) is a dating and social network app designed with lesbian, bisexual and queer users in mind. You sign up with Facebook or Instagram accounts, and then view a stream of activity from other verified Her users both in your area and globally. You can Like photos of other users, and if the interest is mutual, the app will link you up to chat. Of course, it's also more than just meeting prospective dates, with the app offering social features, news and articles about LGBTQ issues, events, questions and more. While the app is free to use and sign up for, a premium subscription adds extra features.
Chappy (Android, iOS)
Created as a counterpoint to other prominent gay dating apps — and to put a greater emphasis on safety — Chappy (Android, iOS) is backed by Bumble and part of the bigger Badoo network of dating services. Chappy aims to provide a safe, fun place for gay men to date, with features like account verification, mandatory confirmed profile pics, and photo moderation. Matching also comes with options for users looking for something casual, or more committed. The app has options for Facebook log-ins, and Instagram integration, though the app also has its own internal Chappy Friends social connections system.
Wingman (Android, iOS)
Need some help matchmaking? The Wingman app (Android, iOS) brings your friends into the loop: rather than writing your own profile all by yourself, you have one or more of your friends do it for you. This even goes as far as the Tinder-style swipe matching — rather than swipe through a feed of possible matches yourself, your designated Wingman handles that,. You’re only really in the loop if your match likes you back, which is when you get a chance to message that person. Wingman takes some of the pressure and fear of rejection out of the picture; just make sure that you’ve got a friend or two that you can trust to do the introductions for you.
Hinge (Android; iOS: $10.99/month)
Refusing to follow the trail blazed byswipe-driven apps like Tinder, dating app Hinge (Android, iOS) decided to do a major redesign in its app philosophy and design, relaunching with an experience that's intended to be less about games and more about relationships and interesting conversations. In fact, the service's explicitly stated goal is to get you to the point where you've deleted the app altogether. Hinge turns its nose up at swipes for a more detailed profile that you fill in with pictures and stories. Users can then choose to like and comment on something in that profile, and that serves as a mutual conversation starter. Each day, you can check out new recommendations, as well as see people who have liked something in your profile.
Happn (Android, iOS)
Happn (Android, iOS) is all about the people whose paths you might have crossed who you might find interesting and might also be doing the same things you are. A location-based dating service, Happn shows you the profiles of other Happn users you've crossed paths with, along with time and location. You can like any of the profiles that show up, and if the feeling is mutual, the app gives you the option to connect. Paid options offer the ability to “Say Hi” to other profiles, which includes a notification, as well as the ability to see profiles which have liked you.
Raya (iOS, $7.99 per month)
Somewhere between professional networking and a paywall-gated dating service sits the social app Raya. The iOS app originally began as a low-key dating service, but also began to be used to make professional networking contacts and friends, particularly among those in the creative industries. You don't just get in either; prospective members will need to send in an application, which will be vetted, before you're admitted to Raya or not. If you're let in the club, then memberships will cost $7.99 per month, or $29.99 over 6 months.
POF Dating (Android; iOS)
POF Dating (Android, iOS) — also known as PlentyOfFish— lacks the depth of features found in some other apps, but it makes up for in breadth. This free dating app is one of the largest and most popular in the world, boasting more than 70 million members spanning the whole English-speaking world. Users set up a simple profile, including age, education and profession, then search through potential matches and message them. Plenty of Fish keeps adding small tweaks to their apps, including Chat Heads for Android users, VoIP calling for premium users and Instagram image uploads.
Badoo (Android; iOS)
A standout in a rich field of dating apps, Badoo (Android, iOS) features 370 million-plus users from more than 190 different countries, all sharing their profiles and photos as they search for matches. The app uses a lot of varied means to find interesting matches, from a Tinder-like swiping system to viewing the profiles of nearby users. Badoo puts a premium on making sure that its users are actual verified people, instead of "catfish"-style scams, with verification methods based on uploaded photos, connected social media accounts and phone verification. While the app is free to use, you can also buy premium credits for $2.99 to increase visibility or subscribe to gain "Super Powers," which provide expanded features.
Hily (Android, iOS: Free)
In your search for romance, Hily (Android, iOS) wants you to put your trust in algorithms. So that you can search for your soulmate securely, the free dating service says it will verify the profiles and ID of everyone who signs on, and it uses an algorithm to block offensive and abusive messages before they get to you. The app uses the swiping system so common to dating apps, but as you swipe and chat, a machine learning-based algorithm adjusts to suggest future matches based on your preferences. While free to download, a premium subscription service called Hily Elixir promises additional features to speed up your searches and improve your experience in the app for $9.99 per month.
Clover Dating App (Android; iOS)
A little bit of Tinder and a little bit of OkCupid, Clover (Android, iOS) takes a grab bag approach with a variety of ways to find and meet potential matches, from Tinder-like swiping to questionnaires, date planners, and detailed profiles with lists of interests. Clover avoids the one-trick pony trap of more focused dating app experiences, so if you ever get bored of the swiping style, you can always try participating in live mixers, check out the 20 Questions game, or even experiment with Clover's "on demand dating." As with other apps, Clover has premium tiers that can improve visibility and add or improve existing features.
The League (Android, iOS)
The League (Android, iOS) bills itself as a dating site for people with high standards, requiring you to get approved before you can get to match-making. You tell The League your preferences, and it does the vetting for you, matching you up with potential mates who meet your specific criteria. Critics of The League bash it as elitist (and worse), and it's certainly one of the pricier options with memberships starting at $29 a month. It's also limited to 60 cities as of this writing, but if you want a heavily vetted dating service, this may be an option worth exploring.
In December, The League started offering speed dating sessions over video, in which users will have two minutes to make a good impression with other League members in their area.
Pickable (Android; iOS)
Pickable (Android, iOS) wants to create a more comfortable environment for women looking to meet someone online. Women don't need to upload a picture of themselves or provide a description. Instead, they can just browse through potential partners, messaging the ones they're interested in. As for men, they don't do any browsing in Pickable — in fact, the app invites them to "chill out." Men can respond to chat requests or glance at a dashboard that will show them real-time updates of whether anyone's browsing through their photos. The idea is to create a more laid-back atmosphere for men seeking a match while giving Pickable's women customers more control over their experience.